th-1Recently at the recycling center I found a few Box Tops For Education coupons in the mixed-paper bin. As I walked back toward my vehicle a woman rolled down her window and said, “Why are you going through the garbage?”

I told her I was looking for Box Tops For Education for my nephews’ schools. Also that I prefer to think of it as mixed paper.

The woman frowned. “Well, I don’t like it. Some of the stuff we throw in there is kind of sensitive. Private.”

Um. What?

It took me a couple of seconds to form a coherent response. “You should be shredding that stuff! If you throw personal information away without cutting it up you could have your identity stolen.”

She sniffed audibly, then drove off.

Readers: Do you ever throw away things like bank or credit card statements or health insurance info? If so, please stop it. Right now.

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Screen_Shot_2015-01-06_at_4.54.26_PM_t670In 2002 Kelly Sangree got fired. She was eight months pregnant, her (now-ex) husband earned only a quarter of what she did – and they’d already been having trouble paying the bills.

The couple struggled financially and ultimately broke up. Due to health issues (hers and a daughter’s) Sangree moved in with her parents and scrambled to contribute to the household while paying off debt accumulated during her marriage.

Sangree wrote a book about her experiences. If you’re facing reduced income for any reason – job loss, rapid debt repayment, an entrepreneurial dream – then “Hard Core Poor: A Book On Serious Thrift” can help.

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thWant to get a glimpse of what young people are facing? “The Millennial Next Door Revealed: How to Be Financially Successful in Your 20s,” a free e-book from, is available starting today. (Click on the link to get your free copy.)

Author Katie Holmes notes that millennials (those born between 1981 and 1994) face a faltering economy and high student debt, along with a lot of withering generalizations (entitled, narcissistic, lazy). Mostly I agree with her; in fact, I believe that millennials have gotten a raw deal, economically speaking.

Although I have an issue with the ways its conclusions were drawn (more on that in a minute), I think “The Millennial Next Door” offers some valuable info on the mindsets of this cohort. And I’d say that even if I weren’t one of a couple of dozen personal finance writers contributing money tips to the work.

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thAs I recently noted in “A simple way to save $159k,” people with poor or nonexistent credit will feel the sting of higher interest rates. Specifically, they’ll pay an average of $159,464 more in interest over their lifetimes, according to’s Lifetime Cost of Debt Calculator.

The number-crunchers over at have now revealed the states with the highest and lowest lifetime credit costs. Alaska isn’t in either the top or bottom ten. However, the state of my birth, New Jersey, is home to the fourth-highest average lifetime cost of debt. Yay.

Short form: If you want to pay less, improve your credit score and then move to Iowa.

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thA recent survey from Consumer Reports noted that 75 percent of shoppers had paid off their 2013 holiday purchases by the end of February 2014. However, some were still paying for their celebrations in late November, i.e., almost a year after the fact.

True, that was just 7 percent of respondents. Still disturbing, though. Then again, I find it unfortunate that it takes some people two full months to pay the tab in full.

Afraid to open the January credit card bills? Personal finance author Donna Skeels Cygan calls this a “holiday hangover,” i.e., the lingering pain of overindulgence.

This kind of hangover isn’t one “you can simply sleep off,” says the author of author of “The Joy of Financial Security: The Art and Science of Becoming Happier, Managing Your Money Wisely, and Creating a Secure Financial Future.”

In this case, the hair of the dog is twofold:

  • Owning any mistakes you made this year, and
  • Learning from them.

Here’s how.

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